Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman Behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America

Mark Jacob and Stephen H. Case. Lyons, $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7627-7388-6
In British-occupied Philadelphia during the winter of 1777–1778, privileged society girl Peggy Shippen (1760–1804) became friends with the charming, cultured British officer John André, an artist, poet, thespian, and spy. André was also the impresario of an extravagant costume party, “the most shameful carousing amid catastrophe since Nero fiddled while Rome burned,” write the authors. The following year, Peggy married Gen. Benedict Arnold, who was twice her age. Forming a secret partnership with André, this trio of conspirators enlisted the help of British loyalists and other confederates, and in May 1779 “they set about to deal a death blow to the American Revolution” with Arnold supplying information to the British. After André’s arrest, the plot unraveled. André was hanged, and Peggy, declared “an enemy of the people,” was banished from Philadelphia. Chicago Tribune deputy metro editor Jacob and Case, an American Revolution Center board member, detail Peggy’s role as go-between and document her later life in London. They succeed in capturing the period atmosphere as they adroitly interweave military maneuvers with the shadowy machinations. The book also benefits from rarely studied correspondence by Peggy to her son Edward provided by her descendant Hugh Arnold. Maps. Agent: Gary Heidt. Signature Literary Agency. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Release date: 07/01/2012
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